Chapter Three: The Road To Recovery
Klinger and a private whose name Hawkeye couldn't remember scurried up to take Hawkeye's current patient into post-op, and two others carried in another.
"He was giving us some trouble outside," BJ warned. "I think he may be hysterical."
"Got it. Baker, put him under."
She reached for the anesthesia mask, but when she went to clamp it over his face, all hell broke loose. The man reared up, knocking the mask aside and sending the woman sprawling. Then he grabbed hold of the first person he could get his hands on. Unfortunately, that happened to be his surgeon.
This wasn't, by a long shot, the first patient who had ever grabbed at Hawkeye from the operating table. But the injured man was larger and stronger than the doctor, and almost immediately had him in a firm grip.
Everyone in the room had turned to determine the source of the commotion, and Margaret, standing only two tables away, saw the change in Hawkeye. All at once, his body went rigid, and his fighting became less focused and more desperate.
Hawkeye tried desperately to keep his head, to remember where he was and what he was doing, but memories of every other patient he'd ever wrestled with couldn't compete with the memory of other men pinning him, holding him so he couldn't escape.
He couldn't think. Couldn't breathe. All he knew was get out get out get out, but he couldn't. Arms held him fast. No no no get out get out now and there was nothing he could do about it.
"Baker, get a sedative!" Margaret snapped. Her voice spurred the Lieutenant into action, and she grabbed a hypodermic, pressing it into the patient. Almost instantly, he fell limp, Hawkeye tumbling from his grasp to land on his knees on the floor. He doubled over forward, gasping for air, making no effort to rise, and Margaret saw that he had gone as white as his mask.
"Pierce, you all right?" Potter asked, concerned. He bent over Hawkeye, but the young surgeon crawled backwards, staring at him in panic.
"I need free hands over here. Someone take Hawkeye's patient. And someone get him outside for a minute too!"
"Kellye!" Margaret snapped, signaling for the nurse to take over for her. She hurried over to Hawkeye and gently pulled him up by the arm. "Come on. Let's get you out of here."
Hawkeye wasn't entirely sure what was going on. He knew the tight grip had released, and he fell to his knees, gasping for air. He knew he should run, but he couldn't get his legs to work. A figure bent over him, and he scurried backwards as fast as he could on his knees. He heard shouting, a lot of shouting, and then someone took his arm, and a familiar voice spoke into his ear.
Yes, get out of here. With Margaret, Margaret will take care of me. He leaned heavily on her arm as she led him out and let her sit him on a bench in the scrub room.
Margaret grabbed hold of a towel and ran it under cold water. She wrung it out so that it wasn't dripping, then pulled off Hawkeye's mask and began sponging his face. His breathing slowed to a normal rate, and he leaned into her hand. She dropped the towel and took him in her arms, running her hands up and down his back. He was shivering violently, still too shocked and worked up to hug her back, but resting against her.
"Shh, just take deep breaths, you'll feel better in a few minutes." She wished she could give him a sedative, just something to take the edge off, but there were a lot of wounded left, and they couldn't afford to risk compromising his work. So she held him, hoping she could get him calmed down without drugs.
"Is Captain Pierce okay, ma'am?" Earnest eyes watched from behind large, round glasses.
"He'll be fine, Corporal. He just needs a few minutes."
Radar ducked back out, and Margaret continued comforting her friend. He slowly stopped trembling, but tears still glittered in his blue eyes.
"Feeling better?" She knew better than to ask if he was all right.
"I feel sick," he said weakly. "Lucky I threw up earlier. There's nothing left in me to throw up now."
Margaret picked up the towel and resumed wiping his sweat-covered face. "I know this is going to be hard at first. Just hold on. It'll get better, Hawkeye. Really."
"I suppose you'd know if anyone would."
"Trust me, Hawkeye. If I have anything to say about it, it'll be easier for you."
"Because I didn't have anyone. You have me. Come on. You think you can get back in there?"
"Yeah, I think so." Hawkeye stood on shaky legs and made his way over to the sink. He turned the water on as hot as it would go, and began scrubbing his hands, fiercely trying to remove the dirt. He didn't know how long it had been before Margaret took his arms in her hands and pulled them out from under the faucet.
"Hawkeye, you scrub anymore and you'll rub your hands raw."
"Margaret, I can't operate like this. Even you know the rules. My hands are supposed to be clean."
"Hawkeye, your hands are clean."
"Then why don't they feel that way?" His anger evaporated as quickly as it had flared. "I'm sorry, Margaret. I just -"
"I know. Come on." She tied his mask back over his face and then fixed her own. "Duty calls."
"What would you want from home, if you could have anything?"
Despite an impossibly long OR session, Hawkeye was once again having trouble sleeping. Margaret had decided that talking for awhile might help him calm down a bit, though she suspected he wouldn't be returning to the Swamp.
"Well, I'm not sure. Good food, clothes that aren't green, there's so much to choose from."
"There must be something. Something you miss more than anything." She caught the look on his face. "Uh-huh. Come on, tell me."
"You'll think it's stupid."
"I won't laugh." She wondered what crazy thing it was he was craving.
"My dad," he said softly.
"I told you it was stupid."
"No, it's not that. It's just, from where I'm looking at it that's hard to understand."
"What do you mean?"
"I was never close to my parents. I respected them, don't get me wrong, but my mother was always distant, and my father even more so. Then they divorced, I lived with him, my sister lived with her, and it just got worse. Nothing I could ever do was good enough for him, especially after - never mind." She kicked herself mentally. She was supposed to be taking his mind off his problem, not bringing up something that would direct his attention back to it.
Hawkeye's hand covered hers. "He doesn't deserve the kind of effort you've been putting in. Certainly if he'd -" God, it had been so much easier talking about Margaret's past when it wasn't so directly related to his present.
"Don't. I'm sorry, you shouldn't be worrying about me. So, why your father?"
"What? Oh." He took a deep breath. "Well, my family quite frankly could hardly be more different from yours. When I was little, I didn't even know families like yours existed. I thought everyone had parents who loved them - everyone I grew up with did, and I certainly did. We were like some sort of TV family, I guess. Up until I was ten, everything was perfect."
"My mom died suddenly, and Dad and I had our first fight. I was angry because he hadn't told me how sick she was, and I was angry because I needed someone to be angry at. I yelled at him and then we didn't speak for the rest of the day, and then I was so afraid of what he'd say that I prepared this whole speech about how sorry I was, and I walked into his study. I hadn't gotten more than a word out before he hugged me and just started crying and telling me how sorry he was. After that, we just got closer than we'd ever been. Every time I had a nightmare about Mom, or something else went wrong, he was right there taking care of me." Margaret could hear the choke in Hawkeye's voice, see the tears in his eyes. "I know it sounds crazy coming from a thirty-year-old man, but I really, really want my dad right now."
"It's not crazy." Margaret pulled him against her. "When I was where you are now, I would have given anything to be held by my father. He was just more worried about his and my image than my feelings."
"I hope I never meet him. For his sake."
That broke Margaret's composure and she started crying. Hawkeye looked down at her in concern. "Was it something I said?"
"I've never known anyone like you, Hawkeye," she sobbed. "You've just been through one of the worst things that can ever happen to anyone, and you're sitting here worrying about me. Most of the people I've spent my life around don't care about me when there's nothing going on in their own lives."
"Then God only knows where you learned it from."
That shocked her into silence for a few moments before she began sputtering, trying to come up with some sort of response. "Hawkeye, I'm not -"
"Yes, you are. You've taken care of me these past couple days, haven't you?"
"You're hurting. I of all people know you're hurting. How could I not?"
"Only a caring person, a person not like any of the people you've been around, would ask themselves that question."
She hugged him. "You want to stay in here again tonight?"
"Of course. Just lie down, come on, rest."
The childlike, frightened look was back. She wanted to cry, seeing him so helpless. "Of course I will."
She began to rub his back, and he relaxed in her arms, wrapping one arm around her waist to keep her close. She continued the rubbing until he was asleep, then, exhausted and lulled by his even breathing, she dropped off in his arms.
"Oh, God," she muttered. "What do you want, Frank?"
"I want to have a talk with you, Major to Major. Strictly business."
"Get on with it, then."
"It's Captain Pierce. For the past five nights, he hasn't slept once in Officers' Quarters."
"And your point is?"
"Well, who knows what he's been doing? Or where he's been sleeping?"
If only you knew. She allowed herself an internal smirk before she answered him. "Where is it you think he's sleeping?"
"I can't be certain, but if I were you, I'd check the nurses' tent."
"Fine. I will. In the meantime, I can't see how it's any of your business."
"Margaret, what is going on with you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Last month, you wanted him to perform your appendectomy instead of me. Earlier this week, you stood up for him in the mess tent. And you were the one to take him out when he screwed up in surgery."
"He had a panic attack, he wasn't doing anyone any good in there."
"See, that's exactly what I'm talking about. It's like he's suddenly your best friend, and I'm left behind."
"Frank, listen carefully because I'm only going to explain this once. It's not that I like Pierce." Even if I do. "It's that I don't like you."
"What? Why not?"
"Well, what do you expect from an old army mule?" She stormed off before he could get in a retort.
"He noticed?" Hawkeye asked in dismay.
"Come on, it's Frank. The last thing he'll ever think of is that you might be in pain. I think he thinks you're crashing in the nurses' tent every night."
"It's not that. If Frank, who couldn't care less about me, has noticed, I'll bet you anything BJ has too. And he will ask."
"And you're not budging on telling him."
"You know he would understand."
"That's not the point."
"No, I suppose not."
"Listen, Margaret. I think I need to go back to sleeping in the Swamp."
"They've already noticed. No harm done in a few more days."
"Margaret, I appreciate everything you've done for me more than I could ever express, but I can't lean on you forever. Sooner or later I need to sleep in my own room again, you know?"
"Okay. But if it really gets bad, I want you to come find me."
"You're back," BJ said in surprise. "Where have you been?"
"Wouldn't you like to know," he said teasingly, trying to pretend his heart wasn't in his throat.
"Okay, why did you come back?"
Hawkeye sighed, putting his face in his hands. "I don't want to talk about it."
BJ burst out laughing. "Okay, Hawk. Whatever you say. Want a drink? Finest paint stripper in Korea."
Hawkeye managed a smile for the first time in a week. "Why not?"
As BJ turned to pour the drink, Hawkeye let himself relax. BJ had bought it.